By Rick Maese and Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010; D03
Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan Wednesday called Clinton Portis the Redskins' current starting running back, while Shanahan's father -- head coach Mike Shanahan -- confirmed that the team has made a formal contract offer to yet another back: free agent Brian Westbrook.
The two spoke separately after another round of organized team activities, but taken together, their remarks raised the prospect of the team starting training camp with four veteran running backs: Portis, Westbrook, Larry Johnson, who played for the Bengals last season, and former Pittsburgh Steeler Willie Parker. The team added Johnson and Parker during the offseason.
"We want him to sign with us," Mike Shanahan said of Westbrook. "Like I said, it could be some great competition. I really like Brian, what he's done and how he's handled himself. I'm sure he's weighing some options. It's not too far away from home. Any more I can do?"
Reminded that Westbrook's younger brother, Byron, plays cornerback for the Redskins, Shanahan said, "I've played that card already."
Westbrook, 30, played his entire eight-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles before he was released this offseason. He is coming off two concussions that limited him to eight games and 274 yards rushing -- his lowest output since his rookie season of 2002. The St. Louis Rams also have shown interest.
Westbrook's quarterback in Philadelphia was new Redskins signal caller Donovan McNabb. Though McNabb emphasized that he has no say in personnel decisions in Washington, he said he speaks with his former teammate regularly.
"It's not just pertaining to football," McNabb said. "I just want the guy to have an opportunity to continue on what he started and prove the critics wrong that he can still play. If it's here or anywhere else, that would be his decision and for the people upstairs."
As for the current running back hierarchy, Kyle Shanahan cleared up any doubts that might have remained.
"Clinton has been the back here, and he's definitely the starting back going into training camp," he said. "We don't really talk about that stuff because we want three guys who all can do it. Whoever can do it, will do it. Clinton's running with the starters. We're planning on it being that way until the next guy steps up."
The coaching staff has been reluctant to name starters at any position while encouraging competition everywhere.
Portis has been getting the majority of repetitions with the first team at the offseason practices. He and McNabb have been taking part in more OTAs than in recent years, and the extra time together during the offseason apparently is paying off.
"With Clinton, it seems like we've been playing together for awhile," McNabb said. "Obviously, with him being in this sort of offense in Denver and now coming here with [Joe] Gibbs's brand, he has that experience. But our chemistry has definitely been there. We've just been communicating and making sure that everybody is kind of thinking on the same wave length."
That isn't to say the running back position is locked up. "I see three very good [backs]," Kyle Shanahan said. "Each one is a little different. I know I see three starting NFL backs, which is exciting."
Portis declined to speak with reporters Wednesday.
In other news, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, safety LaRon Landry, punter Josh Bidwell and linebacker Rocky McIntosh --who still has not signed his contract tender --joined defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth as no-shows Wednesday. Shanahan addressed only Bidwell specifically, saying he had told the punter not to attend.
"All I can say is that when you're at 94-95 percent [attendance], you feel pretty good about your football team and the direction you're heading . . . ," Shanahan said. "Obviously, in the end, if they're not here, it's not good for their future."